President Mugabe threatens safari takeover

By Drum Digital
01 March 2015

President Robert Mugabe threatened to take over local white-owned safari operations as he celebrated his 91st birthday in Victoria Falls on Saturday.

"We are not owners of the animals even that run hither and thither in our forests," Mugabe, wearing a red scarf and a black suit, said.

"They (Europeans) still have farms and privately they arrange with visitors in America to come, they do their own things and pay themselves; kill animals carry trophies with them.

"There is no supervision. But we are now going to invade these forests," Mugabe said in a rambling two-hour long speech to thousands of youths who sat sipping yoghurt shipped in from the First Family's dairy farm near Harare.

Mugabe appeared to be referring to some private white and foreign owned conservancies still operating in Zimbabwe.

A new black farmer who was given part of a conservancy under Mugabe's controversial land reform programme, has donated elephant and impala for

the birthday feast.

Grace Mugabe was by her husband's side, dressed in black, white and red. She has recently taken a key role in the ruling party and is believed to be eyeing a much higher post than the head of the women's league, which she currently occupies.

After his speech Mugabe assisted by the first lady cut into one of eight birthday cakes, one of which was crafted and decorated in the shape of Victoria Falls.

The president, who has been in power since independence in 1980, was given a vintage Ford Zephyr by a Zanu-PF party supporter.

Twenty-thousand supporters were expected to attend the party, rumoured to cost more than a million US dollars. Each of Zimbabwe's 10 provinces had been ordered to raise at least 80,000 US dollars towards it.

Roads to Victoria Falls have been unprecedentedly busy over the last two days.

Reports say one person was killed and 23 injured, three of them critically, when a bus making its way to the party overturned on the road between the southern city of Masvingo and the second city of Bulawayo.

Children were amongst the guests, including 111 "Twenty-firsters" --children flown to Victoria Falls from across the country because they share the same birthday as Mugabe.

The Mugabe family posed with these children as a brass band belted out jazz and VIPs danced to the music.

Mugabe's three children, Bona, Robert and Chatunga were all at the party.

Mugabe told the crowds in his speech that he did not know he would become president and was never ambitious.

In a controversial suggestion, he said he wanted all children to go through national service once they had reached O-level standard, the exam schoolchildren sit when they are 16.

"We want to get to a stage where every student at O-level has gone through national service training," said Mugabe.

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